Christmas is all about family for us, and while we couldn’t be with ours physically, we were most certainly there in spirit. Here in Cusco we had a fantastic time with our new extended family in ‘Hospedaje Estrellita’ – If you are a cyclist or biker stay here, it is a home from home. As Olivia mentioned in our last post there were 11 cyclists, including ourselves of course, and 9 bikers in the hostel for the festive period – over 9 nationalities in total (Irish, Canadian, Australian, American, French, Spanish, Argentinian, Indian, Dutch and Peruvian).
Christmas dinner was pretty spectacular, not to mention diverse. There were over 15 different dishes from all over the world – from indian curries to Peruvian delights. Olivia made a killer salad (pictured) and I opted for the massive sugar hit that comes along with Banoffee pie. The Australians brought enough booze to choke a donkey to ensure the festivities went well into the night.
The day after Christmas, Olivia and I (along with our new cyclist friend Billy from Dublin) set off for Machu Picchu. If you want to keep costs low and avoid paying the extortionate price of $100 US return to take the train to Aguas Calientes from Cusco, you can take a combination of collectivos/buses/taxis/walking. It ended up costing $30 return.
Here’s a couple helpful tips:
— Leave Cusco early in the morning, no later than 8am.
— Pack lots of snacks/water as they get more expensive the closer to Machu Pichu.
— Machu Pichu opens at 6am. It’s better to get there first thing in the morning, because it’s less crowded.
— You can buy your entrance ticket into Machu Pichu in Aguas Calientes or Cusco for the same price (128 soles/ about $50 US). If you want to do the additional hikes to the overlooking mountains, you may want to book in advance. You need your passport to buy the ticket and enter the park.
— Transport Breakdown: Cusco – Urubamba (6 Soles in a Colectivo – 45 mins) – Santa Maria (20 soles on a local bus – 4hrs+ ) – Hydroelectrica via Santa Teresa (15 soles in a taxi – 1.5hrs) – Aguas Calientes (8km hike along the train tracks – 2hrs+).
Note: you can get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, the next town over fro Urubamba, to get a bus to Santa Maria but we were told that all the buses go through Urubamba and that it was more likely you would get a seat on the bus if you took it from there. As it turns out we didn’t get one, but the theory is sound.
This is the point that I try and do justice to how amazing Machu Picchu is with words, but I will fail miserably so I will let the pictures do the talking – needless to say It was amazing!
Olivia, Billy and I had some flatulence issues as we walked the ruins – something we quickly named Thermo-Necular war given the amount of bombs that were being dropped. It must have been down to the diversity of food we had the night before, but it did keep us laughing all day. (Olivia: Simon conveniently walked in the front of the group) However, after losing my fancy rain jacket, only sleep shirt and breaking my sunglasses all in the space of 24hrs it took me a bit of time, and admittedly swearing, to see the bright side of things.
We managed to do the roundtrip from Cusco in two long days. We hiked Machu Picchu and back along the Hydroelectrica all in one day, a total of 10 hours of walking with only some bread, Pepsi and snacks to keep us going. We got back into Cusco at midnight, which was nothing short of a miracle.
We have one more night in the amazing city of Cusco before rolling out with Karen and Mike (Canadians) and Billy (Irish) heading in the direction of Lake Titicaca. Let the cyclists convoy begin 🙂